Finding joy

Nobody, as far as I can tell, has read my last blog. However, if anyone has, unbeknownst to me, you saw that I said I need to let my general happiness come across in what I write more, since I usually tend to write only when I’m upset about something.


I think my thoughts on this subject are best divided up into two parts.

Part 1:
There are some people who I do not wish to emulate. These are the people whose Facebook status updates are constantly occupied with depressing song lyrics or dark musings or flat-out complaints about how difficult their life is. The funny thing is, in most cases either the dark updates aren’t representative at all of what these people are like in person (in which case it baffles me as to why they’d portray themselves that way), or these people really do not have it that bad.

Dr. Reynolds made a remark at this year’s Torrientation parent reception about how our culture is obsessed with having problems. We, for some reason, feel compelled to romanticize and play up the things that happen to us that really are not all that tragic. That said, I freely admit that I’m not immune to posting such gloomy updates, although I usually try to be a bit cryptic when I do so.

There are a few people I know who, if anyone had the right to cry out about their struggles, would definitely be among those entitled. The funny thing is, these people who have every reason to let themselves get trapped in despair and self-pity and depression tend to be the ones who don’t romanticize it. They acknowledge that they’re hurting. They acknowledge that life sucks at the moment.

But they praise God in the midst of their storm.

Not to imply that they say that “Oh, God is so FANTASTIC! Even though I’m being bombarded with hardships, I feel FANTASTIC!” That kind of attitude isn’t healthy either. God allows us to hurt. It’s a perfectly human emotion that we shouldn’t run away from or ignore or smother. I admire these people for being honest about their pain, yet not falling into the realm of “woe is me, I have nothing to live for.” They recognize that no matter how hard it is to see it at the time, that God IS working and that He DOES have a purpose for whatever is happening and that He WILL heal in His perfect timing. But God also understands that we don’t heal instantly, and He wants nothing more than for us to let Him lovingly hold us in His arms while we wait for our open wounds to heal.

I admire few people more than those I know who have learned to hurt, and to hurt honestly — not making it out to be the despair from which they can never return, not pretending that the knowledge of God’s ultimate good is an overnight fix and that they’re perfectly happy.

Why are we so quickly drawn to be more interested in other people’s pain rather than their joys? Why are we so prone to let ourselves be so caught up in our own struggles that we think they are insurmountable? Why do we refuse to trust God, or even if we say we trust Him, to truly let Him carry us?


Part 2:
I allow the events in my life to dictate my happiness. I think it’s safe to say that we all do, at least to some extent. I’ve been thinking, though, that I need to learn to better find joy in even the mundane things.

I was extremely stressed and frustrated the last time I posted. Writing tonight, my emotions are the polar opposite, because I’ve managed to mostly get ahead of my workload, and Chris is coming to visit for the weekend. To say I’m overjoyed is a bit of an understatement.

(I am desperately resisting the urge to insert a smiley face after that last sentence. I refuse to do so when I’m purely writing, not IM-ing or Facebook-ing. But an exclamation point seems like overkill, and a period seems emotionless. So if you are reading this, mentally superimpose a smiley face somewhere in that gap.)

I’m not saying that it’s wrong for me to feel upset when something overwhelming happens or happy when something good happens, but I think I need to learn to not let events alone dictate my outlook on life from day to day.

Over the course of the last year and a half or so, I’ve learned to remind myself constantly that God is good, no matter what is going on. If I’m having a day where everything goes beautifully, God is good. If I overslept and didn’t finish my reading and was late to work and find out that Chris is in more pain than usual, God is good. If I have a perfectly uninteresting, unremarkable day, God is good.

I think I’m finally coming to a point of being able to cling to the belief that God is good regardless of what’s going on in my life. Finding joy regardless of what’s going on, however, is something I’ve recently realized I need to work on. I don’t mean that I need to find a reason to be happy all the time, but I need to be able to see things, even the smallest things, as having goodness in them on good days and bad alike, and to thank God for those smallest things. I think He gives us subtle blessings to keep us sane, but we tend to overlook them.

For example, the last time I wrote, when I was totally overwhelmed, it had been a perfect fall day outside. I didn’t get to spend much time in it, but walking between classes and my dorm, I got to enjoy it. I have a bamboo plant sitting on my bookshelf, and whenever I see it I’m reminded of how much I like having something alive in my room aside from people. My roomie makes coffee in the morning sometimes, and even though I don’t drink it, the smell of it helps me get out of bed instead of burying myself under the covers longer in denial of everything I have to do that day. For some reason, my eyes change colors, and they are always the coolest shade of green after I’ve just been crying and the rest of me looks like a mess.

Small blessings. Small joys. I need to learn not to take those small things for granted, to see them as the faintest touches of God in my life that give me additional encouragement on good days or remind me to breathe on bad days. I think it’s easy to forget about God on the mediocre days, when nothing in particular seems to drive me to ask Him for something or to praise Him, and those small blessings should be a reminder to me of His goodness even then.

It’s 2:30 in the morning and I have notes to take on Martin Luther and an essay to write before I can sleep. My small blessing right now is simply the anticipation of the freedom I’ll feel when it’s done.

God is good.





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Finding joy

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